Pubdate: Fri, 12 Aug 2005
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2005 Messenger-Inquirer
Author: Owen Covington, Messenger-Inquirer
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Drug Test)


Nine Teenagers In Program

The efforts of local youth advocates, substance abuse counselors and
judges to bring a juvenile drug court to Daviess County are finally
paying off, with nine teenagers now participating in the county's
fledgling program.

The drug court, which got off the ground in May and now has a
full-time program manager, might grow to serve as many as 25 juveniles
by the end of its first year.

But for now, organizers said they are just happy that the long-awaited
project is starting to serve area juveniles with addiction problems.

"We don't want to move too fast at first," said Daviess District Judge
Joe Castlen. "Any time you try something new, you're going to have
bumps in the road that you need to work through."

The local program is one of 13 across the state modeled after the
adult drug court program that diverts qualified defendants from jail
time and offers them counseling while testing them for drug and
alcohol use and requiring employment.

Kyle Newcom, who was appointed in July by the state drug court office
to manage the Daviess County program, said the program is off to a
good start.

"Just since I've been working here, we've seen a lot of progress (in
the participants)," Newcom said.

The participants meet once a week with Castlen and also attend group
and individual counseling sessions conducted by Newcom and counselors
from RiverValley Behavioral Health. Newcom said the teenagers must
also pass random drug tests.

Once drugs and alcohol are removed from their lives, many of the
teenagers need help dealing with emotional issues as well as practical
matters about how to better manage their lives, Newcom said. Most are
very intelligent but have low opinions about themselves, she said.

"Their lives have just centered around drug use," she

The drive to establish a juvenile drug court in Daviess County began
in early 2001, and ran into funding problems when two state grant
applications were rejected.

But last fall, the state Department of Juvenile Justice awarded the
program $15,000 in funding, and the local Agency for Substance Abuse
Policy board offered $18,000.

Castlen credits Shirley Hazelwood, a private substance abuse
counselor, and Lura McElhearn, a Daviess County Public Schools
counselor, as well as the efforts of Community Solutions for Substance
Abuse, with making the program a reality.

"I'm pleased as can be about the progress so far," Castlen said. "It
was a very frustrating process."

Funding could pose an ongoing challenge for the program, Castlen said.
The two grants it received last year were one-time offers, but Castlen
said he is hopeful federal money and other funding sources can be secured.

"It just feels so good to have these kids in there," Castlen said.
"I'm really proud of them."
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